Wind and Floods and the People Who Get Us Through Them

Offta! It can storm around here.

Two weeks ago it was a combined wind and rain storm. Winds whipped us around at 30 miles an hour ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

But what really got us was the 75 mph gust that hit the town and surrounding area from the south at 4:14 in the morning. (My friend insists that was the exact time. I was awake for so many hours … I hate wind … that I lost track of time, so I’ll take her word for it.)

Whatever the time, I know I felt it. The rain suddenly threw itself against the bedroom window like one of those FB bucket challenges that was all the rage for awhile. I momentarily thought the water might break the window, it hit so hard. Then, in the next breath, our 1910 house did a little dance, swaying to the north and back to the south.

The ol’ girl hung in there and from the Post Office Gossip the next morning (with all the Covid shutdowns, the sidewalk in front of the PO is about the only way to catch up with the news around town), I found I could be glad that all I felt was a little swaying.

Neighbors lost roofing. Farmers discovered buildings that had caved in on vehicles and equipment. Large trees were cut down to size as giant limbs broke free … I didn’t think we had many left to come down after the early snow we had in October. Trampolines were crushed like tin cans, and I found one badly mangled and lonely several blocks away from its home. Crazy.

It would have been more interesting to write about the storm in real time. However, I wasn’t planning on writing about the storm at all, but then I came across this picture in a library newsletter earlier in the week. (The photo can be found on the Whitman County Rural Heritage collection.)

I glanced at the photo and thought, “That must have been some storm.”

Then I read the caption and found that this was taken in 1948, in my home town (just a few miles from where I live now), and the man is Theodore Fisher, my grandma’s first cousin.

The photo is remarkable to me for many reasons. First is Theodore. I loved him and his wife Katherine. Grandma lived only two blocks away, and she took me often to sit in their yard, drink lemonade, eat cookies (Katherine always had cookies … a family trait), and listen to Theodore’s squawking menagerie of geese, ducks, and exotic birds.

When he wasn’t busy digging himself out of a flood … sadly this was far from the only flood his home suffered over the years … he built pens and labyrinths for his collection of birds. I couldn’t wait to race from the school (the large building in the background) to see if Theodore had let the ducks out. Often he timed their swim in the creek (“crick” in our parts) just in time to greet us on our way home.

I always thought of Theodore as a cheerful, kind man … for all the floods he had to dig himself out of you’d think he’d be a bitter, miserable type of soul.

The second remarkable thing about this photo was already mentioned … the Farmington school. Behind Theodore’s head is a ghosted glimpse of the original Farmington school. By the time I came along, it had been replaced by the modern brick building (built in 1912, I believe) and the ghost-building was converted into a gym.

The other ghost in the picture is the Lutheran church … the over-exposed building barely noticeable on the right. My great-grandfather and his brothers built it, and it was attended by Fisher’s until Katherine, one of the last of that generation, watched from her kitchen window as the cross was taken down and the doors closed. The town had dwindled and no pastor was available to preach any longer. Today, the building is a private residence.

I attended first grade in the brick school the last year it was open. Two teachers … 13 kids … six grades … all those empty rooms … you can bet I have some stories. Some of them I’ve written, and they’ve been published in a town history that I will have to dig up and add to my blog one of these days. Suffice it to that I loved this building and felt my heart break when I heard that it was torn down while I was at college.

Rural Heritage Collection

The flood picture above brought to mind a ferocious winter storm and flooding that last year of the Farmington school. Every day at noon, we grabbed metal lunchboxes (with cool cartoon designs on them) from our cubbies and raced downstairs to the cafeteria on the bottom floor. The flood waters drowned Theodore’s place again that winter but this time kept on going. It crept over to the school and into the basement.

We were banished to our classrooms at lunch time which wasn’t so bad. The big adventure was getting to the only bathrooms … in the basement. 2×4’s and sheets of plywood were fashioned into a wobbly “bridge” and the whole place smelled dank and moldy. We weren’t allowed to go downstairs on our own during the floods should we decide to go puddle stomping through the flooded rooms. (Someone must have done it once … hence the rule.) The hero of the floods was our janitor, Mr. Felker, who steadied the boards with his foot when we walked across and slipped us sticks of Black Jack gum when the teacher’s weren’t looking. He gave us a wink and nod that meant, “Our secret.”

Rural Heritage Collection

This … the original Farmington school was our gym. A balcony had been fashioned high along the sides and one of my most excitable childhood memories was the year we were allowed onto the balcony to watch a game of donkey basketball that took place on the hardwood below. Big stuff for a small town.

Back to the wind storm I opened with … found out yesterday that part of the roof in the library I manage came off in that storm. How did I miss that! Granted it is a large brick building with a flat roof. I’m just glad our town workers saw and took care of it … the building belongs to and is managed by the town … but still, you’d think I would have noticed something.

I’m just glad that our that K. and D. (our town maintenance team) were on top of things (literally) and had a roofer come and put a temporary repair in place the very next day. When I thanked them for all the time they put into fixing old building around here, they laughed and said, “No worries. It’s what we do.”

That’s what I love about living here … we get plenty of storms and set backs, but there is a good core of people (and yes … a few complainers … I’ll be real … and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep us moving forward … one storm at a time.

Finally, I’ll wrap up with photos from a few other stormy days we’ve experienced since being back. Isn’t it amazing how even the darkest of clouds and most dreaded of winds are usually sandwiched with snatches of unmatched beauty?

Hope your are weathering your winter storms well … wherever you happen to be on the globe.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly